Agave, prickly pear and barrel cacti dot some areas and others are thick with creosote bushes, mesquite and palo verde trees. Along the two miles of exhibits and trails, you might see a coyote, bobcat, ocelot, gray fox or an American black bear as well as snakes, gila monsters, hog-nosed skunks and tarantulas.
The highlight: the Raptor Free Flight, offered daily October through April. A raven, great horned owl, prairie falcon and hawk swoop low over your head before landing on perches to grab food. You can almost feel the feathers in your hair.
The Titan Missile Museum, a.k.a. complex 571-7, is the only preserved Titan II missile site in the U.S. and it’s open to the public. On a guided tour you descend 35-feet underground to enter the control room where after verifying the presidential order, it would take the commander just 58-seconds to launch the rocket that carried a 9-megaton nuclear warhead. That weapon, once deployed, would arrive at its target 6300-miles away in 30 minutes. Fortunately, the Titan never launched, although a team manned the site, a Cold War necessity, from 1963 to 1987.Nestled at the base of the Santa Catalina Mountains, The Westin La Paloma Resort & Spa sparkles like a gem after its $35 million 2013 renovation. Wood and metal furnishings add sleek lines to the guest rooms’ décor, desert landscaping adds a sense of place to the property, the Elizabeth Arden Spa offers a soothing range of massages and treatments, and Chef Russell Michel’s farm-to-fork approach has catapulted AZul, the hotel’s Southwestern-inspired restaurant, to the top ten ranks on TripAdvisor’s best Tucson restaurants.